Spring has been very late here in the UK this year with cold winds from the East staying with us for later than I can remember. The last week or so has brought a change, with warmer winds from the south and west, so spring has finally sprung – yay!
Lots of people mention daffodils when they talk about the first signs of spring and I do love daffodils but always associate them specifically with Easter rather than with spring in general. For me, spring is signalled by primroses. One of my favourite memories from growing up is exploring along the cliff paths at Blackhead on the SE coast of Co. Antrim and discovering a whole bank of primroses in full flower on an old landslide between two cliffs.
Oh the joy of walking around that corner and seeing the stark black basalt cut through by a stream of palest lemon with golden yellow dotted through it. Beautiful!
There are lots of different forms of primrose.
Those I remember from my childhood are Primula vulgaris.
Another primrose native to the UK is Primula veris, commonly known as Cowslip,
and with smaller but much brighter yellow flowers.
Ironically it is difficult to get these native plants in most UK garden centres as the market has now been flooded with hybrids and cultivars, which come in a dazzling array of colours and are often imported from Holland.
So, when I spotted the native Primula veris for sale at my local farmer’s market last week, I just had to snap up a pot for my garden. Also on sale was Primula denticulata, which is native to Asia and is commonly known as the drumstick primula due to its spherical umbel of flowers atop a plain stem.
I love to mix purples and yellows, and also love to mix British natives and exotics of the same genus together in my garden, so both had to be bought!
So they were sitting happily in my kitchen waiting to be hardened off before I could plant them out when I had a little brainwave of capturing spring in sugar form. I’ve been meaning to have a go at crystallising flowers for a while and thought what better to do on a wet Sunday afternoon. Most Primula flowers and leaves are edible but do take care as one species is poisonous, Primula obconica, which is often grown as a house plant.
Of the species I was using, some people can react to the little hairs, so I wanted to use just the petals. Primula petals are fused together at their base, so snipping off the base is an easy way to remove the other parts of the flower but still keep a pretty flower-shaped ring of petals.
I amassed a pile of petals and these I rinsed gently and dried on kitchen towel.
I then painted these with lightly beaten egg white using a fine paint brush
then sprinkled them with caster sugar and left them overnight to dry
Here they are all crisp and sugary – they will keep for a few months in an airtight container.
Well, that’s if you can stop yourself from using them immediately! I have actually already used mine all up – watch this space for a pretty spring dessert!
So dear readers, tell me, what is your favourite sign of spring?